Historic Art | William Henry Perehudoff R.C.A.

About the Artist

William Perehudoff, painter (b at Langham, Sask 1919). Though he has lived most of his adult life in Saskatoon, he left the Prairies as a young man to study art. He explored mural painting at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center (1948-49), then studied with French Cubist Amédée Ozenfant in New York. Ozenfant's purism and insistence on "significant form" impressed Perehudoff deeply. The notion of stripping a painting down to its essentials is the core of his developed work 30 years later. Perehudoff's knowledge and ambition were expanded by his travels in the US and Europe in 1952. He married Dorothy Knowles in 1952 and they returned to western Canada, where he earned his living as a commercial artist.

The University of Saskatchewan's summer artists' workshops at Emma Lake influenced him during the period 1957-68, notably those led by American critic Clement Greenberg (1962) and painter Kenneth Noland (1963). Their respect for his work encouraged his development of large-scale, abstract painting. In 1987 he was invited to participate in the Triangle Workshop in New York state. In 1988 he was, himself, a workshop leader at Emma Lake.

Until failing health in his 80s prevented him from continuing his active painting career, Perehudoff's preoccupations remained focused on colour, surface and texture. His work evolved through complex orchestrations of colour from a Cubist-derived geometry in the 1960s and 1970s, through painterly applications in the 1980s to complex compositions in the 1990s, the latter stimulated by his Doukhobor heritage. He exhibited widely in Canada, the US and Europe, and is regarded by many as the heir to Jack Bush as Canada's most important colour field painter.

In 1999 William Perehudoff was made a Member of the Order of Canada and in 2003 he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Regina. In 2005 he was awarded the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal. The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a touring exhibition featuring more than 60 works, was organized in 2010 by the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon.

By Terry Fenton, The Canadian Encyclopedia

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